“Anyone who dreams that within three months we will be able to propose housing solutions for thousand of evacuees, will be proven wrong. We have been caught with our pants down,” say Housing Ministry officials.

At one meeting on disengagement at the Prime Minister’s Office this week, one participant said that the cost of buying fans for the tents of the evacuees that will be pitched should be taken into account, since nothing else is moving. “The evacuation will take place in July-August, the peak of the heat wave season in the south,” he said, and no one laughed.

On the ground the situation is bleak: yesterday one tractor went into the field to set up a trailer site. The rest of the tractors will join it this week, maybe next week. 1,600 housing unit have already been constructed on paper, but on the ground there is no infrastructure, and contractors don’t know what to do. Even one trailer-villa has not been ordered. Not one trailer has been ordered. “An astronomic mess,” said a senior Housing Ministry official.

The Finance Ministry has not transferred any money. A week ago, for the first time, in wake of entreaties from Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Herzog, Netanyahu agreed to transfer NIS 6.5 million. Herzog said that the preparation of housing solutions will cost NIS.25 billion. The budgets for this have not been prepared.

Even tenders for construction have not been issued and in order to accelerate the process, the army is being brought in to handle construction. Infrastructure preparation will be done by infrastructure contractors who won Defense Ministry tenders that were not used, and who can be hired from one day to the next.

Meanwhile, Housing Ministry officials are examining the idea of leasing hundreds of housing units in Ashkelon and Beer Sheva for the evacuees. Security officials have signed agreements with several hotels and guest houses in Beer Sheva and Ashkelon to lodge the evacuee families.

This piece ran in Yediot Aharonot on April 19th, 2005